TWO LEGENDS ON THE ROAD – NO THREE!
A few weeks ago I received a call from Poland asking if I could please come to the Marina Club 70-800 Szczecin – for a fee of time and kilometres, of course! – to the Marina Club 70-800 Szczecin! They had some questions and problems with the installation of a Windpilot system on the SV Polonez, which they would like to discuss with the manufacturer. 800 km drive, in the middle of high summer? I was curious and first tried to find out the reason for my consultation. Difficult! Unusual, after all, because consultations on site in Poland are rare, because technical matters are quite easy to clarify electronically. Moreover: I had not received any photos of the assembly, which would otherwise always have prompted me to comment immediately. So there was obviously a need for clarification!
The back story is quickly told: the Polonez, built in plywood moulded in the seventies, achieved cult status in Poland after Krzysztof Baranowski took part in the OSTAR in 1972 and, after arriving in Newport R.I., immediately sailed on to complete his first circumnavigation of the world in Poland on 24.06.1973. At the time, this was a sensation that swept through the country.
After an exciting life of countless training cruises for young Polish sailors, the Polonez, visibly exhausted as an unfortunate hulk, landed in a corner of Szczecin harbour where she was put up for auction.
What probably only a few believed, but the miracle became reality: a Polish investor helped the Polonez to resurrection, he struck at the auction.
She was then completely overhauled and upgraded up to the mastheads, washing machine, ice machine, interior steering position included, rigging and curtains, new technical systems anyway. The magnificent result was ready for a new life, the Polonez was presented to the TV cameras and the public in May 2021: a ship in new condition, flagged over the tops, many uniformed dignitaries with brass buttons and white caps, an admirable investment that caused awe and amazement on all sides.
In February 2019, the shipyard in Szczecin contacted me and named a national legend with a colourful CV as the person responsible for supervising the construction. KrzysztofKrzysztof Baranowski (geb. 1938) a two-time solo circumnavigator, has built and launched several square-rigged sailing boats in his lifetime, and as captain has inspired countless compatriots from young to old to take up sailing.
The last time I met Krzysztof was 20 years ago in Brunsbüttel, when he was about to set off on his second single-handed circumnavigation (October 1999 – August 2000) with Lady B, and we were fitting a wind pilot system in the lock harbour.
At the time, an Aries was mounted on the Polonez, which worked on the tiller. Therefore, my first advice was to use a Pacific here, which would also be best suited for mechanical wheel steering. However, the new owner favoured a Pacific Plus, which was ordered and delivered. Radio silence followed until that day, in June 2021, when I was asked to give my advice on site in Poland. A few quick enquiries later revealed that a hydraulic control system had been chosen during the construction process, presumably because an internal control station was considered important. This is a completely different situation for the functioning of a Windpilot system, the details of which I have described elsewhere. And recognisably the reason for a conflict.
It is probably due to a lack of communication that the shipyard’s construction department, which had to comply with the owner’s requirements and wishes a priori, did not consult the manufacturer of the stern ornamentation. In any case, the Polonez was handed over to the owner in front of running TV cameras and then transferred to the Canary Islands by Krzysztof Baranowski and a crew of experienced sailors. However, they apparently had a problem getting the stern trim to work! We then agreed to discuss the problems in Kiel Holtenau.
It was a meeting of a very special kind, because the Windpilot company has been partly owned by a Polish woman for many years, who was also well informed about the life and work of the famous sailing legend Krzysztof Baranowski and had already read many of his books (Krzysztof Baranowski is the author of 20 books, including several specialist books on square-rigged sailing). Krzysztof has also been very present in the Polish media for decades, especially as he has been in the public eye as a sailing hero, journalist and extremely attractive man at the side of a well-known television journalist.
Polonez and Krzysztof, two legends we met in Holtenau in the lock harbour. What a team! A wonderful ship, solidly and strongly built for all weathers, equipped in new condition … and a skipper aged 83, who moved nimbly on board with a springy step like a young man, resting in himself, observing his counterpart attentively … before speaking up in a low voice.
The third legend we should get to know: Krzysztof’s lifelong friend Lieutenant Colonel Maciej Ostrowski, well-known aviation and sailing meteorologist, author of textbooks and expert in aviation accident investigations.
A strong trio, reinforced by two deckhands, the plan: they wanted to transfer the ship quite quickly to Tenerife, the starting port for further voyages … but as yet undetermined destinations.
What had happened to the stern ornament? As Krzysztof noted, it always steers to the port side, which is fine, but it would be more comfortable if the system was able to steer a balanced course! A quick glance by my wife brought the startling realisation: some curious person had dismantled the system and then mounted the card parts incorrectly. Dismantle the system, correct the push rod, readjust the cardan parts … the job was done in 10 minutes … you couldn’t have done it by email, because you would neither have known nor wanted to believe the cause. There had obviously been curious hands on board who wanted to have a close look at a Windpilot turbine! If only they hadn’t taken their tools out of their pockets!
The use of the existing hydraulics was dealt with in a few sentences: the emergency tiller proved to be unusable.
From a certain sea level, the hydraulic system is assisted by the electric autopilot, which is operated on stand-by until the course deviation exceeds certain parameters … then gives powerful counter rudder until the desired course is again in front of the nose.
A tour of the interior of the Polonez followed, which revealed that the owner had spared nothing, after which the champagne was poured and this day was duly celebrated, books were signed by each other and the agreement was made that we would not meet again in 20 years … especially as the Windpilot company is now half at home in Poland.
In the meantime, the Polonez is moored in Tenerife and tugs impatiently at the lines there, because she was built for sailing and not for lying in the harbour. That, at least, is in her genes. And Krzysztof will be on board for many more miles, at least that’s the plan.
For my wife and me, these get-togethers are one of our highlights, even though they also signal how quickly the years are slipping away. Nevertheless, in the best of health all round – we will have NO regrets.